Chapter Communication - 13 June 2022
The audience with Pope Francis took place this morning with more than fifty confreres. I am sharing with you a short text that Didier Sawadogo was kind enough to write for our daily communication.
Papal Audience with the capitulants on 13 June 2022
We were welcomed at the Bronze Gate at 11.45am and taken to the Clementine Hall dedicated to Pope Clement VIII. We were 51 Missionaries of Africa and Sister Inarra Maria-Begona, observer at the Chapter on behalf of the MSOLA.
It was a busy morning for the Pope who entered the Clementine Hall at 1.05 pm to the applause of the capitulants.
Stan Lubungo, took the floor to greet the Pope and give us news. He began by thanking the Pope for his welcome and recalled that on 8 February 2019, we had the joy and privilege of being welcomed with our MSOLA Sisters by him as part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of our two institutes. We were encouraged and carried by his strong words inviting us to be faithful to our origins in order to commit ourselves fearlessly to the path of mission in order to bear witness that “God is always new, He who pushes us to go without respite and to move beyond what is known, towards the peripheries and the frontiers”. Today,” the Superior General told the Pope, “you welcome us once again in the context of our General Chapter, another important stop to reread the past and turn towards the future with hope. He shared with the Pope our joy at the announcement of his visit to Congo and South Sudan, two countries where we are and share the life of the people. We pray that his health will allow him to carry out this missionary journey as soon as possible in order to strengthen the people who expect a lot from this visit. He ended by sharing with the Pope the sad news of the death of our confrere, Michael Mawelera, who was killed in Mbeya, Tanzania on 10 June.
In response, the Pope began by reiterating his desire to visit Congo and South Sudan, but also shared the difficulty of travelling at his age: “To my great regret, I had to postpone my trip to Congo and South Sudan. Indeed, at my age, it is not so easy to go on mission! But your prayers and your example give me courage, and I am confident that I will be able to visit these peoples, whom I hold in my heart,” he said. He added: “On 3 July, the day I was to celebrate in Kinshasa, we will take Kinshasa to St Peter’s, and there we will celebrate with all the Roman Congolese, who are numerous.
He remembered our Jubilee well and asked us to pass on his greetings to the confreres and the MSOLA Sisters. He reminded us that looking back with gratitude as we do on the occasion of our Chapter is a sign of good spiritual health. Gratitude opens us to hope. Therefore, he invited us to move forward in gratitude and hope. Taking up the quotation of our founder, quoted by the Superior General, the Holy Father reminded us that the apostle is not the one who proselytises. Proselytising is not evangelical. The apostle is a witness. Witness is based on two things: fraternity and prayer. A good example of this is the life of Saint Charles de Foucauld, the universal brother.
To conclude, the Holy Father invited us to the joy of the Gospel, to be joyful missionaries who sow joy in spite of the context of poverty and insecurity before giving us his apostolic blessing and inviting us to pray for him.
N.B.: You can read the full text of the Holy Father’s message on this very blog.
During the afternoon, the capitulants devoted themselves, for the second time during this Chapter, to interculturality and to the identity and formation of the brothers. The texts will be further polished. I cannot bring you much that is new. However, I will take up with you some of the realities that attracted the attention of the participants.
Interculturality is part of our charism, our lifestyle and our mission. It remains a central element of our evangelical witness where we live. Our intercultural communities arouse in us an interest in knowing the cultures of our confreres and they increase in us the desire and willingness to learn and love those of the peoples we serve.
Interculturality in our midst enriches us as a society, as missionary communities and as individuals with the qualities of our different peoples. It is a sign of dialogue between cultures, peoples and religions. It is also a witness of universal brotherhood for the world today.
The aim of our interculturality is not to build a small private intercultural bastion. We are called to integrate and transmit interculturality to the peoples through our encounters, our pastoral missionary initiatives, our visits and apostolate to all.
The capitulants do not take for granted this characteristic of interculturality that is so significant for us. They have therefore looked at ways of protecting it and living it better.
IDENTITY AND FORMATION OF THE BROTHERS
The Society of Missionaries of Africa is composed of brothers and priests. All of us have the same common missionary vocation and live the same charism bequeathed to us by Cardinal Lavigerie. All of us develop a strong prayer life, all of us live community life, all of us are affected by interculturality, life away from our families, learning the language and customs, and all of us want to be witnesses of the Gospel. This common missionary vocation, which is ours, is lived in two ways, as brothers and as priests. The presence and apostolate of the brothers in our society is a treasure to be treasured and it is clear that the Society of the Missionaries of Africa would not be what it is today without the presence and contribution of the brothers among us. All of us are missionaries and apostles. The evangelical witness of the brothers makes that of society more complete and whole.
A large part of the discussion focused on the formation of the brothers, which needs to be clarified. What formation and for what purpose? There is no ready-made answer to the question because the formation of the brothers requires a personalised professional component in order to exercise its mission effectively.